What is a ‘shadow step’? Why tell the devil where to go in a song? And how did the powerful, poetic lyrics of So Will I come to life?
These were some of the burning questions on our minds when we caught up with Hillsong United at during a break at Hillsong Conference, to hear about their latest album, Wonder.
Here’s what Matt Crocker, Taya Smith and Jad Gillies had to say about three of the standout songs on the new record.
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The story behind ‘Not Today’
Matt: We had this song and we needed a lyric for it. We had one line which at the time was, Fear is just a liar, running out of time. And Joel, as he does, makes things better, he turned it into Fear is just a liar, running out of breath. And from that stemmed this whole idea of ‘let’s put God in His place, and put the devil in His place’.
We’ve been thinking about it a lot: we give way too much credit to the devil for a lot of things, and as Christians, as people who believe in God and trust that He has all authority and is above all things, we have the right to say ‘not today’. So if you’re facing something, tell the devil ‘no, not today’. It’s a fun song, but there’s a strong theme behind it. It’s a reminder of what we actually should be living.
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The meaning of ‘Shadow Step’
Taya: As a worship leader it takes me a little time as we’re listening to the songs, to get the heart behind the song and its meaning. Because you have to then, from that revelation, lead other people into that as well.
My favourite lyric in that song that just keeps repeating, is [the word] ‘unexpected’. And ‘Fix my eyes on the unexpected’.
The whole theme of [the album] Wonder is having childlike faith and being in awe and wonder of who God is and where He’s going to take us. And when you have that kind of perspective, and when you’re looking up, it doesn’t really matter what the circumstances are. That should encourage you to walk forward in a faith-filled kind of way.
I feel like [our journey in United] has been one that’s been unexpected, and God has brought amazing opportunities in our lives. It kind of encourages you that there are going to be unexpected times in life.
But the best thing is, it says ‘In the wonder of your shadow-step’. So we don’t do it alone. We actually do it in the shadow of His step. He goes before us, He goes behind us, and He walks with us. So I love that song as well, because it’s a good reminder. We’re meant to be faith-filled and step out, but also know that He goes with us.
The making of ‘So Will I’
Matt: Ben [Hastings] has been a part of our team for a long time. He came to college years ago. He’s Irish and he’s just got a gift on him for songwriting, but especially lyrics. And Joel [Houston] is an incredible lyricist as well.
Ben had this song, called Artisan, originally. It was a great song, and a lot of what’s in there now, was in there at the start. But Joel, as he does, took it and was like, ‘I feel like there’s more to this. God wants to say more in the song’.
So [the song] is a journey of creation, and all the things in the world that were created by God and for God. And following along that line, the Bible talks about singing with creation. So for us it’s reminding ourselves, we’re a part of this journey [of creation] as well. We’re all singing out this one song.
When it says, ‘if creation will sing, if the wind goes where you will send it, so will I, iIt starts to sing all these praises that people can really declare and speak out. People really shout it out. It’s a confession, ‘I will sing as well; so will I. I was created to sing your worship, God’. And a hundred billion failures left behind seems to be the line where people go ‘yeah!’
Jad: The song goes full circle. It goes from creation, all the way to salvation. And what I love is when we sing it, everyone’s reading the lyrics, and figuring out the whole cycle, and when it comes back around full circle to ‘a hundred billion failures disappear’, you actually see people in the crowd going, ‘Aaah!’, because they’re reading and processing and understanding. That’s my favourite bit. They’re like, ‘This is how I want to articulate, but I didn’t know it.’
That’s how I feel about God but sometimes I struggle to articulate exactly that, so when read the lyrics and I sing this song, it’s articulating what’s in my heart towards God. I love watching that happen [in other people] when I lead the song.